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Childcare Task Force collects valuable feedback from campus open forums

Results from the Athens area survey also revealed

ATHENS, Ohio (April 3, 2007) -- Many issues about the lack of childcare options in the Athens area surfaced on Monday, April 2, at two open forums hosted by the Ohio University Childcare Task Force and the Corporation of Ohio Appalachian Development.

The Childcare Task Force and COAD used the forums to gather feedback from the audience and share their findings from a recent Web-based survey of the Athens area.

To begin both forums, Childcare Task Force member Wayne Chiasson shared some of the most significant results from a winter survey of the Athens area. He said out of 912 respondents, 487 anticipated a need for childcare now or in the near future. He said 83 percent of respondents indicated that childcare has impacted their ability to attend school, or work and 71 percent would prefer to place their child in a child care center rather than with a home-based provider. 

Most respondents said they want full-time, weekday childcare. Seventy-seven percent said the cost of childcare is a concern, and a large majority indicated they need childcare when school is out of session during the summer, extended vacation periods and no-school days. 

Attendees' thoughts supported the results of the survey. Julie White, a Political Science faculty member, and Beth Braun, director of the Athens Community School of Music, both said their children have been on the waiting list at Ohio University's Child Development Center for more than three years and still haven't received a spot. While they both are happy with their current off campus childcare providers, they voiced their individual frustration about the lack of childcare options in the area.

Jackie Weber and Jennifer Bowie, both administrators in University Advancement, told the audience that although their children were fortunate to obtain spots in the CDC, it was only because they were clever enough to place their name on the waiting list several years before giving birth. They also voiced concerns about the high cost of childcare, which can often be more than one-third of a household's income. 

Other ideas presented included the need for a higher ceiling for the CDC sliding pay scale, better distribution of childcare information during university orientations, encouragement of flexible hours for employees to reduce the need for childcare, the possible recruitment of a national childcare provider franchise to Athens and the need for more childcare options during school vacation periods such as summer and winter break.

Maureen Boggs of COAD said there are 75 licensed childcare programs in the Athens area with a capacity of 1,704 children and 182 vacancies. She cautioned the audience that the number of vacancies does not indicate true available openings because many providers don't want to fill every vacancy for various reasons, including lack of adequate space, staff or resources. 

Boggs went on to say that although it appears the childcare business is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs, it is a tough business to enter. She said some of the barriers are a national 33 percent turnover rate for childcare teachers, high startup costs and stringent government and state regulations that make it difficult to obtain the proper licensing to start a new business. 

"We were happy that we got quality feedback from some of the people on campus who are concerned about area childcare options," said Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration and Childcare Task Force member Terry Conry. "We will now analyze the great feedback we received and present our report and recommendations to Provost Krendl before the end of spring quarter."

The Childcare Task Force is a result of Ohio University's strategic plan, Vision OHIO. During its development, the university recognized that the request for more childcare options in the Athens area was a common need. Provost Kathy Krendl commissioned the Childcare Task Force and charged it with researching the childcare needs of the Athens community, particularly university employees and students, and recommending solutions back to her.

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Media Contact: Media Specialist George Mauzy, (740) 597-1794 or mauzy@ohio.edu

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